Feet are a funny thing.
Either you tolerate them or you think they’re just plain gross. For some people, just the thought of touching the feet of others, even friends, can give them the willies.
It isn’t hard, then, to understand why Peter was shocked that Jesus would have any desire to wash his feet.
Of course, in Peter’s day, feet were probably even more unpleasant than they are today. The disciples didn’t have nice shoes or odor eaters. They had leather sandals, and they put lots of miles on those sandals.
They walked wherever they went – from neighborhood to neighborhood and village to village. And they walked on rocky, sand and dirt roads, not nice pavement or sidewalks. I think it’s safe to assume the disciples had dirty feet.
That’s why Peter was appalled at the idea of Jesus washing his feet.
While it was common for a host to offer a basin of water to their guests so they might wash their feet when they entered a home, the host didn’t do the washing for them. They would direct their servants to wash their guests’ feet. The host would NEVER stoop down and do the work meant for the servants!
Of course, Jesus was not an ordinary host. He was a host with an important lesson to teach – a new commandment to illustrate.
Jesus told them: “So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet.” And, “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another."
Tonight we commemorate the Last Supper when Jesus instituted the ministry of the priesthood, the sacrament of the Eucharist and the commandment to love one another through humble service.
All three go together. You cannot have one without the other two. Jesus gave us priests to give us the Eucharist. The Eucharist feeds our lives so that we use our hearts and our hands to wash the feet of the sick, the lonely, the naked, the prisoner, the hungry and the stranger among us.
Not just tonight on this Holy night in the middle of Holy Week but every time we gather around this table and we are fed by the Body and Blood of Jesus we have an obligation to love one another in humble service to one another.
That’s what’s implied every time at the end of mass when I say, “The mass is ended! Go in peace to love and serve the Lord and one another!”
As we move on through holy week toward the gloom of Good Friday and the glory of Easter Sunday, let us pray that we might all find a moment to pause and consider the ways we can love one another.
– the ways we can mimic the servant leadership Jesus modeled
– the ways we can wash one another’s feet, as parents and teachers and friends and neighbors
– blessing the roads we walk on with our feet, loving one another along the way so that everyone will know we are the disciples of Jesus.